Larkin has developed a habit which stops me dead in my tracks every time. “Look at me, mama!” he shouts a million times a day. I’ll look at him, glancing up from the resume I’m sending out or the e-mail I’m replying to, or just breaking halfway through the million and one thoughts swirling through my brain. I’ll look and see his latest daredevil stunt or ball throw with a distracted smile. “NO, MAMA!” he’ll stomp. “LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT MY FACE.”
Look at my face.
And I fall apart inside.
Because he’s right. I am parenting distracted. The last six months or more, I’ve been driving with one eye on the road. Life has thrown curveball after curveball, and I just can’t seem to keep up. I’m overwhelmed and stressed and a bit frightened. And sometimes in all of the madness, I lose sight of my one constant.
The move across Texas. The unsuccessful-thus-far job search. The things that I can’t write about here, but that weigh heavy on my heart. It’s been a bumpy road, and I feel like I’m always hovering on empty, just praying to make one more mile closer to my next chance to refuel.
But I’m trying. I’m trying to hold on to the good things. The tiny moments that when I stop and focus, are my fuel. The long conversations with a little boy at bedtime, listening to the new words he learned that day. Hearing him sing a song flawlessly that I didn’t even know he knew. The explosion of joy that he always greets me with – even if I was only gone for a few minutes. The way that he looks at me with utter confusion when I apologize for the many, many ways that I fail him.
I know that when we breach the next stage – when I find a job and we are fully settled and everything seems a little more ‘normal’ – I will look back and wish I had focused a little more on these days. Enjoyed the last stages of spending our everyday together. Paid a little more attention to these final leaps he is taking out of babyhood. Done just a few more Eskimo kisses and kept a little better track of the awesome and hilarious words and comments that fly out of his mouth.
Just keep reminding me, little boy. Take my face in your hands and turn my head. Keep me focused on what really matters.
Conversation with Larkin:
"SUPER POWER, MAMA!"
"You have super powers?"
"What are they? Can you fly?"
"No, too hard."
"Can you become invisible?"
"No, too hard."
"Do you have super strength?"
"YES! SUPER STRONG! SUPER STRONG AND FAST!!!"
"My little super hero!"
"YES! MAMA'S SUPER HERO!"
I could not adore this kid more.
Last week, Larkin started nursery school. He's goes twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, for about four hours. While he's there, he gets to go to chapel and music class, play on the playground, eat lunch with his friends and take a nap. I was a little concerned about how he'd handle the separation. As you can see, he was very distraught:
I've never seen a kid more excited for school! He can barely sleep the night before in excitement, and falls asleep telling me everything he's going to do the next day. When I pick him up, he's all a'chatter, telling me everything they did that day. He points out the lunchroom, and shows me which table he sits at, and tells me whether they played on the playground or in the gym ("It was TOO COLD today, mama! Play inside. We raced!").
He even surprised me by doing well at nap time. One of his teachers had to give some extra snuggles, but then he slept longer and harder than any of the other kids. Hey, you play hard, you sleep hard!
Okay, mom. I posed. NOW WILL YOU TAKE ME TO SCHOOL ALREADY?!?
Since day one, he's bounded into class with barely a wave goodbye. Today, he ran right past me as I was unloading his backpack, and ran to hug on his teachers and join in the fun. I love it. I'm so happy he's getting this chance to grow and learn and be social. He really thrives on it. I just hope he's ALWAYS this excited about school!
My dear, sweet boy,
This letter is so hard to write. It should be easy to say how amazing you are and how much I love you, but it’s about as simple as cutting my heart open and spilling it on the keyboard. Larkin David, you are an amazement. You are an absolute beacon. You are simultaneously amazingly exceptional and the absolutely typical epitome of a two year old.
Sweetheart, you will never understand what a joy you are to me. You’ve been the brightest sunshine in a shadowy place. You are the strongest, most resilient person I’ve ever met – even if you are only three feet tall. We’ve had a rough few months, and every time I think, “This is it. He’s going to lose it”, you just keep bouncing back. You are my hero.
You are also a complete and total handful, and you wear me out completely. You are NEVER still and you are always into EVERYTHING. You have a devilish streak an absolute mile wide. You constantly have me scrambling. Your little temper is pure fire and lava, scorching everything in you path when you are angry or frustrated (or hungry or tired or feeling underappreciated or neglected). You are stubborn and sarcastic and opinionated and manipulative in the way that only a toddler can be.
But you are also sweet and loving, always fast with a smile or a silly face. You’re empathic and compassionate, and you hate to see anyone cry. You are rough and tumble with your buddies, but sweet and gentle to those friends who are smaller than you. You give the absolute best hugs – big squeezes followed by a sweet “tiss!” (yes, you say your Ks and Cs as Ts, and I’ll never hear anything more adorable in my life) and a demand to “Hold you me!” You share your smiles and easy joy with everyone around you – even total strangers at the grocery store.
You love, love, love to sing and have even learned entire lyrics to a couple of your more-repeated songs. You can belt out a full rendition of a favorite Veggie Tales song and are even starting to learn your ABCs. You’ve been singing the “Happy Birthday Song” non-stop since we sang it to you over your cake. You’re happiest with a pen and paper, and could draw for hours. Your creativity and imagination amaze me. I don’t doubt that you’ll go far, and I will always be here to cheer you on toward wherever your dreams lead you.
It’s so hard to believe that it was just over two years ago that you only existed in my belly and my mind. Now you’re this powerful, intense little human with a personality and drive all your own. You never cease to amaze me, little boy. I wish I could be more for you – better, stronger, slower to anger and quicker to joy. I wish the world were better for you – safer and saner and more loving. But know this, sweet child - I love you with every beat of my all-too-human heart. I pray every day that I can be enough, that you can feel the depth of my love even in my failings. That when I lay beside you at bed time and we sing and whisper-talk and say your prayers, that you can accept my apologies and reminisce on the highlights of our shared day before you fall into peaceful slumber.
You are a wonder, and an absolute joy to me.
To the moon… and back,
And a quick reminisce on last year's birthday letter
WARNING: Disconnected, jumbled emotional dump ahead! Turn back now!
I've been avoiding this blog.
I've been avoiding it, just like I've been avoiding most of the other little projects in my life. My blog gathers dust, crochet sits neglected, family photos go unedited and unshared.
Partly, I avoid it because I have no time to invest in it. I'm BUSY. I've been getting more and more photo shoot requests - which is WONDERFUL. I couldn't be happier. But with shoots on the weekends, and editing taking place after baby bedtime (which has been outrageously late recently), my nights have been getting later and later as the editing backs up. Not to mention that my website is hopelessly (like, eight months!) out of date, and I've been unable to get all the information up that I need to promote myself.
And I've also started a new part time job with our church. I'm coordinating the volunteers for the preschool program during the Saturday evening services. It's a perfect job, and I feel insanely blessed to be a part of it. I have a few hours on campus on Saturday evenings (when Larkin can stay home and play with daddy) and the rest are done from home, in my own time (read: post-baby bedtime). It's a wonderful job, I've already fallen in love with the kids and the volunteers, and my fellow staff is awesomely uplifting and encouraging. But did you catch that nighttime and weekends bit?
Long story short, I'm TIRED. I'm physically exhausted still from last month's illnesses, plus my back problems have flared up from lugging around 25 lbs of toddler all the time. Let me just say that back pain is a devil - it worms itself into your soul and darkens your whole outlook on life. It SUCKS. I have an appointment with a chiropractor tomorrow, and I'm praying it helps.
Oh, and my house! My house is always in a state of disarray. I've stopped having playdates because it's such pressure to get everything put away and presentable when I'm already so busy (nevermind the knowledge that my friends love me and their babies have fun even when it looks like Toys R Us exploded in my playroom, and even if I answer the door in yoga pants and a pony tail*!). I need a two step process: 1. find a daily routine to keep it reasonably neat and 2. embrace the rest of the mess until weekends when Jonathan can help. I also really, really need to LET GO of the disaster that is our garage. Ugh. It haunts me at night - as if it even really matters in the scheme of life.
*Note: Ponytails are for FANCY days. Most days, my curly mess of crazy hair is yanked back in a bun, never to be seen by public eyes.
Then there is the guilt. Friends who are hurting from hard experiences are not being sufficiently supported. New babies are going unmet (some of them aren't even new anymore!) and uncuddled by me. Phone calls don't get returned. Friendships get neglected.
I just feel so disconnected right now. There is so much going on that I never feel fully connected to any individual moment. There is always a mile long to do list running through my brain. And I HATE that. I hate not being truly present for a single second from any of these wonderful things I have going on, but most especially for every moment of my day with Larkin. I dislike when he gets upset because I lose focus in the middle of reading "Count" (his favorite book) because my phone vibrates or a 'to-do' list item pops up in my mind or I remember I should have pulled something out of the freezer to thaw for dinner hours ago or even just the realization the I haven't checked Facebook in awhile and I wonder what's going on...
I need to find a schedule. And it needs to include some downtime. Some ME time. I need to take care of myself so that I can give my whole focus to this little boy that is growing up before my eyes, and then to my other exciting ventures in their proper time and place. I need to learn to breath. To release. To let that which does not matter truly slide (again, be leery when I start quoting Fight Club in every day life).
The chiro tomorrow is my first step, and I'm grateful for a friend who is taking care of the boy so that the visit is possible. I shall be making an effort to put away my phone and back off of the computer for anything except necessary work-related things during Larkin's waking hours. I may be harder to get a hold of, but I'll probably be more invested when you actually reach me. I want to play outside more - even if it's muddy. I want to serve and eat blueberries and not worry about the mess they'll make. I want to build more stuff with blocks and watch my boy knock them down. I want to not hold my breath when I ask someone how I can help them because I actually DO have the time to really help. I want to take more naps, or even just lie next to the little one while he sleeps and memorize that sweet face and chubby fingers. I want to not feel guilty when I need to get away from it all. I want to be a better friend, a better wife, a better mother - a better ME.
Baby steps. Priorities. Focus.
I'll get there. I have to.
(I apologize for the disconnection and rambling. It's taken me four days to find the time to write - and force myself to be honest - about all of this. Bless you for sticking through it. And any tips that can be offered would be so appreciated!)
Ah, sweet baby.
I'm late again. Why? Surprisingly, we're not sick right now (knock on wood) - but we were for most of the month. You were horribly sick for awhile. Four days after a complete recovery from bronchitis, you got sick again. This time, it was bronchitis AGAIN and RSV. Poor little man. We had to do breathing treatments every few hours and I stayed up all night listening to you cough and wheeze. It was awful.
Luckily, you bounced back eventually, but you left me flat out again. Your doctor recommended we keep you out of the church nursery, large playgroups and other mass cootie exposures for a month while we let your immune system recover.
You've been well for a couple of weeks, but it's been a tough ride. This month was the breaking point for me. We've been sick and isolated. It's horrible to watch you suffer. And it's been tough even since you started feeling better. You've regressed on a lot of the skills you've built recently - you're not using the potty, you've lost some of your words, your sleep schedule is shot, you're not eating well, you're clingier and grumpier and hard to please.
It's been a hard month.
I have many friends whose little ones suffer from difficult chronic illnesses. I hate to whine and complain when I know that our road is temporary, and doesn't compare to theirs. But it's been exhausting, frustrating, lonely and depressing. I've been unable to fully recover from my illness and fatigue because I can't get any rest since you WILL NOT SLEEP at night.
Oh, my little man. There has been some light at the end of the tunnel, though. Today, you learned and retained three new animal sounds (owl, bird and frog - your 'ribbet' is particularly adorable). You let me leave the TV off without a single point and whine, and simply played - building your Mega Blocks and playing chase with me, you took a good nap, and only threw 100 temper tantrums (instead of your usual 129,384,021).
Anyway, dear love. Here's to the good times - even when they're hard. Because they're still times that you're in the world, that we're together, and that we have love.
Pictures to follow later. For now... rest.
Love even in the darkness, all the way to the moon... and back,
When I was a kid, I loved the book "Love You Forever". You know the one, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, etc, etc..."? It used to make me cry and cry when I was just a little bit. I was thrilled when I found a copy at Half Price Books while I was expecting. I added it to the baby's library, and waited til he arrived so I could read it to him.
According to Pinterest, I think I'm the only person in the world to be kinda creeped out by this book. I mean, I GET it. Most of it, I echo the sentiment. Babyhood - beautiful. Toddlerhood - lovely. Teenage years - gotcha. All difficult times, and the rhyme is a good summary of a mother's patient love. But a little old lady who creeps into her adult son's window at night, hauls him out of bed and into a rocking chair and sings him a lullaby? It's WEIRD. Also, how strong is this woman?? And what the heck drugs did her son take before he went to bed that he's not waking up and freaking out? And has this woman ever heard of USING THE FRONT DOOR? Of course, if this was standard behavior for my mother-in-law, I might lock the door on her too.
Childhood memory - RUINED.
Has anything useful, uplifting or productive EVER followed the phrase "Well, in my opinion..."?
Did you know that cut up grapes pass through a toddler's digestive tract looking exactly the same as they went in? It's true. Therefore, if you see a piece of grape on the floor, do not assume that it was a piece from today's lunch that got caught on his clothes after mealtime and pick it up with your bare hands. Because it's just as likely to be a piece from YESTERDAY'S lunch that has pushed out the side of the diaper you are about to change, and then you will be compelled to wash your hands for the next 45 minutes - and be very grateful that the baby didn't find it first and eat it off the floor.
I read other blogs, and see them posting a "Photo an Hour" posts, where they carry their camera around with them all day, and (obviously) take a photo every hour to show their goings on. Every time I read one of these posts, I think - Oooh! I need to do that! Then I realize that it would quite possibly be the world's most boring PaH post. In fact, it might be more real to show the hour and a half of house cleaning I would have to do the night before to get my house in decent enough shape to document it to the world.
Same story with the "What My Baby Ate Today" posts. Beautiful photos of toddler bento box meals, and organic smorgasbords fit for tiny fingers. I long to create such a post - but I'm pretty sure there are only so many ways to show photos of macaroni and cheese, pickles, carrots, cottage cheese and peas (the current foods Larkin will allow me to set on his tray). Maybe I could just take a photo of my kitchen floor after meal time and show where all my hard work went.
I don't know that I even need to type this, or if it's just understood, but we've been sick once again and this letter is late once again. It seems we end every single month sick. Actually, after being mostly healthy since Thanksgiving, you've been through the wringer this month - first you had strep (AGAIN, the second time in six months!), and then a week later you came down with bronchitis and a double ear infection. The bronchitis has been awful, and since it's viral, the antibiotics haven't helped you at all. As I type this, I'm listening to the sound of you coughing in your sleep and your chest rattling over the baby monitor. It's heartbreaking to this mama. You are the strangest combination of strong, solid and healthy... and yet susceptible to every single germ and bug that floats near you. It's maddening.
I never got around to posting about Christmas (man, I am SLACKING with this poor blog!), but we had a wonderful holiday. We spent the actually holiday tucked in at home. I made my first Christmas dinner by myself, and it was so yummy (although you were only interested in the macaroni and cheese and the candied yams. I don't blame you, though - they were my favorite also!). Grandma Suzie and Grandpa Ron came by on Christmas night, and brought you your present - a big, red Radio Flyer wagon. Luckily, the weather has been warm all winter, and you've gotten plenty of trips around the neighborhood in it.
The following week, Gaunie and Grandpa came in town, and you had more Christmases! You really raked it in this year. Our playroom is absolutely stuffed with the wagon, a Cozy Coupe car (from G&G), a basketball set (from Uncle Chris and Aunt Marki) and all the smaller things we got you. You love climbing in and out of your Coupe, and adore having daddy hold you up to make baskets (and laughing at mommy when she misses!).
To finish up the holidays, we had a quiet New Year's Eve at home, though you got woken up by the neighborhood fireworks and midnight and refused to go back to sleep for hours!
This month has mostly been marked by an explosion is new skills, particularly language. You've started repeating everything we say, and working hard to get the letters just right. I love hearing your tiny voice develop!
That's an older video - you can point out pretty much all your body parts now!
You are also into EVERYTHING now. You're climbing everything, and you've learn to stand on your tippy toes to get things that were previously out of reach. So, in other words, we had our first call to poison control early this month when you got into a drawer (that I'd been TELLING your daddy to babyproof!) and got a hold of my thyroid medicine. Luckily, all was well... except my nerves!
We haven't had many adventures this month, since we've spent most of it cooped up in the house being sick. But we have been taking lots of walks, and we regularly hit up the local playgrounds (which is probably where you keep picking up your cooties!).
We also made our first family trip to the zoo. It was rather disappointing, honestly. You were right on the cusp of getting sick, so you were fussy the whole time. Plus, ALL of the animals were hiding! We only saw a few big cats (you enjoyed calling the jaguar Jack Jack, which I'm sure Jack would have appreciated), walked through the aquarium, and got to see a single sea lion frolicking. You were most excited about the sea lion, and tried your darnedest to slip out of my arms and go join him in the water.
We also do lots of fun stuff at home. You love watching Sesame Street (Elmo and Big Bird are your BFFs), listening to music (anything with a strong beat, you love to dance!), and as many art projects as I can figure out. You love coloring, and you can spend hours finger painting and making the biggest mess imaginable. I love that mess, though. That mess means you're learning, and creating, and having fun!
Another very cool trick is that you've started using the potty this month! I know it's early, and I'm not counting you toilet trained, but you used it consistently for a week and a half before this last bug got you down (and since I've been sick too and lazy to keep up with it AND I'm posting this on the Internet, I fully expect you to not use the potty again for another year, because that's just how you roll). But it's been so cute. Every time you go, you get SO excited, and even cry when I flush it away. I had to teach you to flush it yourself and you do a little dance - that keeps you mostly distracted from me "throwing away" your achievement.
You are, in all respects, a full fledged toddler. And that comes complete with all the stereotypical accoutrements toddlerhood implies - tamper tantrums, opinionated forcefulness, picky eating, independent living. It's honestly exhausting, but so cool to see you turning into the person you're becoming. I'm not going to say that every moment is precious - because some of them are really, really annoying. But every day overall is, and I love spending them with you (and that's especially easy to say when you're sleeping soundly!).
You are, basically, growing up. It's amazing to me how fast it happens - in the blink of an eye. I keep watching you... watching you so close... and you keep changing right before my eyes. Every day, you learn a new skill and I'm left speechless and wondering who this child is, and what did he do with my tiny baby!
You're all movement and power and activity. Every day, I kiss the tiny dimples in your knuckles and snuggle up to you during nap time and pray that I never forget these tiny pieces of your boyhood. Daddy asked me the other day, "If you had only the sense of smell, could you pick out our son just by scent?" Of COURSE I could. I could choose you by just the scent from the top of your head - just like I could the sound of your smallest cry or giggle.
I love you more than words can say.
To the moon... and back,
I just had a stunning realization. It was today, TWO YEARS ago, that we realized I was pregnant - that our two had become three.
I've been a mommy for two years. Amazing.
How is it possible that two years have passed since that stunning night? It seems like just yesterday. Like the journey had just begun. I'm not sure how I have a toddler running circles around me - it was just YESTERDAY. (Just like it seems like YESTERDAY that I was holding a tiny newborn in my arms!)
But then again - how is it possible that it's only been two years since that little blue line knocked the breath out of me? Was I really ever that girl, so self absorbed and flighty? Did I really look at that test in terror and wonder if I could handle it, if I could ever really LOVE? How was that just two years ago?
I'm not going to pretend - the realization of you came as a shock. But how blessed am I to have 'known' you for two whole years! Even when I was still reeling in surprise, I loved you. I held a hand over my flat (well, not exactly flat, but certainly the flatest it would be for awhile!) belly and tried to radiate love to you. You were just the tiniest of specks... surprising, really, that we were even able to know you were there. But you were. And you were loved.
Our love grows even faster than you have these past two years.
You're a joy - even sick with strep like you are right now (AGAIN!). We'll celebrate our two years when you feel better.
To the moon... and back,
Since my computer crashed, and I'm waiting for all my photos (and every other thing I've saved to my laptop since it's purchased four years ago) to be recovered, my Christmas post will be delayed until waaaay after the holidays are a distant memory. Alas. To tide everyone over, here's a post of adorable photos that I luckily saved online before the crash.
For my parent's Christmas gift, we did a photo shoot with the grandkids. We've got some pretty good looking kids in our family! And can you tell who adores having his picture taken?